Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Leica IIIf, Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 around f/5.6, cheap CVS color 200 print film.
I shot two rolls without a meter, and interestingly seemed to err on overexposing. I guess that is good for print film, but if I shoot slides I will need to be careful.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Creation of Adam
(Leica IIIf, Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar around f/4, cheapo CVS 200 color print film)
Got my first couple rolls back from the Leica. It is just cheap color print film and fairly lo-res scans, but I like the results overall.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
So, I picked up a new (old) Leica IIIf (approx 1951 according to the serial number data here) black dial from KEH. This model seems like the best way (read least expensive) to get a Leica screw mount shooter. (A Canon 7 or one of the Voigtlander Bessas might be a better option if you don't care about getting the Leica name).
I know my first photo doesn't do it justice, but it is a gorgeous camera. It seems amazingly tiny, although the body isn't that much smaller than a Nikon FM without a prism.
It is my first rangefinder, which is going to take some getting used to. I haven't gotten any photos developed yet, but some comments on use:
-The Leica III's have separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows. (I believe Leica's first camera with a combined finder was the M3). The separate finder is good and bad: they are squinty, especially for use with my glasses. It doesn't help I am left eyed, so my nose sort of gets in the way. However, the rangefinder has a physical baselength of about 38mm and a 1.5x magnification, so the rangefinder should be almost as precise as the M3 or a modern M7/8/9 with .82x finder. That is, it should work well with long and fast lenses, if everything is adjusted correctly and your lens sample and body sample get along, and you sacrifice a lamb every year to the Leica gods.
On the IIIf and earlier IIIs, the viewfinder does not have framelines, just a soft boundary approximating the 50mm frame, probably at infinity for slides. There is no parallax adjustment, but the finder is very close to the lens, in fact close enough that some lenses might block its view. (The IIIg has built in 50 and 90mm parallax corrected frame lines).
What I decided to do, since I would already have to move my eye between focusing and composition, is to use an external bright line finder. This will allow me to use pretty much any focal length lens (Voigtlander has a massive collection of nice finders, although they can be pricey--but I will probably stick to just one or two lenses) and have a big, bright, easy to use finder. On the downside, parallax becomes an issue again (the finders should have a dotted line for the shift at the minimal focus distance of around a meter, and you just need to extrapolate from there). I am also a little worried about damaging the external finders, I suppose I should probably remove them for carrying in a bag. Shooting wide open, I do worry that moving my eye from one finder to the other will probably shift the focus a little. But rangefinders aren't exactly an exact science to begin with.
Can you tell I'm already missing the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) factor of SLRs? With an SLR you know exactly what is in focus, you know exactly the composition, and many SLRs have a depth of field preview. With experience I am guessing I will get better at estimating this stuff with a rangefinder, but there will always be a little serendipity. But that can be good.
One of the secret reasons I loved getting an SLR was that I never had to worry about leaving my lens cap on. With a rangefinder, this phenomenon is going to be a problem again. I know I already took a lovely photo of the back side of my lenscap once on my first roll - and I hope only once.
Speaking of which, think I could blow up a big print of that blank frame and call it "4.33 Sq. Ft. of Darkness"? Prolly get sued.
In all seriousness, one needs to be more careful about lens caps on a rangefinder, both to take it off before a shot and to put it back on afterwards -- if the camera is pointed towards the sun for an extended period, it can burn a hole through the shutter curtain.
-Film loading is a pain with the screw mount Leicas. Unlike most cameras, the back does not open, only the bottom plate can be removed. The take up reel in mine was very difficult to remove. It is a tight fit to try to get a grasp on the knurled bottom edge of it and mine was being reticent. I ended up using a pair of needlenosed pliers with a bit of padding on the jaws to pull it out. It seems to have loosened up a little, but I am not sure if I will be able to ever do it by hand. The problem is I can't sand or polish the interior to try to make it easier, since the friction fit needs to be fairly tight or the film would not wind when you turn the film advance knob. Once you have the take up spool out, you need to have modify the leader of your film (removing more sprocket holes) so it does not jam as you push the film in. There is plenty of information about this elsewhere, so I won't belabor it.
The film changing actually has been relatively smooth otherwise. However, I would not want to do it in the field. You'd want your leaders trimmed already, you would want three hands to hold the body, the bottom plate, the take up spool, and the film, and it would still be slow. I have no idea how the pros did it.
Odds 'n' ends:
-You have to advance the film to set the shutter speed dial, which you have to lift to turn. There are separate high and low shutter speed dials, the high speed on the top and the low speed on the front. You leave the front slow speed dial set to 30 (i.e. 1/30) if you shoot at 1/30 or faster. To shoot at lower speeds, you need to set the top high speed dial to 30-1 and then put the lower slow speed dial at the appropriate speed. The lower slow speed dial has a little detent you need to depress to take it off of 1/30.
-There is a film reminding window which can indication black and white or color film (you lift the film advance knob and turn it, you might need to overshoot your sensitivity and reverse direction to get the correct type of film) in ASA from 8 to a blazing 100 (or Weston, whatever that is). I will probably use 20 for 200 and 40 for 400 speed film.
-There's an extra little knob under the shutter speed knob for flash sync, I think with different types of flash bulbs. Just leave it be.
-Knob advance is amazingly smooth, although of course much slower than the fast thumb stroke of more modern cameras.
-You have to manually reset the film counter when you load. It just ratchets downwards.
-There is a lever under the rewind knob which adjusts focus for the rangefinder window.
-There is a dot on the shutter release button that turns when the film is moving. This is helpful to make sure the film is winding correctly, and it allows you to stop rewinding before the leader is pulled into the film cassette if you want.
-The tripod mount on mine is the standard 1/4", but some Leicas use a larger 3/8", but there are adapters you can use. The tripod mount is set far off center of the lens, not that it matters much since Leicas tend to be light.
-The III's use a non-standard cable release, shared with the Nikon F and F2. You can find them used if you poke around. I figure I will mostly be shooting my Leica handheld anyway.
UPDATE: I had Bill Moretz at Pro Camera clean the rangefinder and view finder, which made it much easier to use, as well as get some of the slow shutter speeds working property.
More information about the IIIf and other screw mount Leica resources:
Stephen Gandy screw mount camera recommendations
Stephen Gandy screw mount lens recommendations
Here are the lenses I've used:
Leitz Summitar 5cm f/2
Leitz Elmar 9cm f/4
Arsenal 55mm f/2.8 Industar 61 L/D
Tokyo Optical Co. 5cm f/1.5 Simlar
Voigtlander 50mm f/3.5 Heliar
Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color Heliar